Legendary San Diego Landmark In step with today

Built in 1939 and listed on The National Register of Historic Places, this iconic complex originally served as the San Diego Police Headquarters. Its inspired mix of architectural styles – Spanish Revival, Mediterranean Revival, Pueblo Revival and Classical Revival - creates a romantic, old California flavor for its new retail persona, and a complimentary element to its contemporary shops and eateries.

With exquisitely detailed materials and finishes reflecting the great San Diego boulevards of the ‘30s and ‘40s, and an open floor plan encouraging circulation and social engagement, The Headquarters has a richly authentic sense of place unrivaled in downtown San Diego.

In keeping with its legacy as a landmark of San Diego culture, this reincarnated icon has become a brand new destination, giving residents and visitors a premier shopping and dining experience along the waterfront.

Explore our fully restored 8 cell jail block which houses historic photos and police memorabilia.  Also, don't forget to snap a photo at our lineup wall.  Jail cell block is located in between Kitson and Madison San Diego.


Heritage is Our Inspiration

San Diego’s Old Police Headquarters was designed by master architects Charles and Edward Quayle and Alberto Treganza and opened in 1939. The 104,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility brought all police operations together under one roof; administration, courts, jails, law library, crime lab, exercise areas, vehicle maintenance, and even a pistol range. In later years the headquarters even had a four-lane bowling alley, utilizing jail inmates as pinsetters.

The cost to build the Police Headquarters was $410,000. At the time of its opening, there were approximately 300 officers and 50 support staff. The average salary of a police officer in 1939 was $120 per month.

A prominent 68-foot tall watch tower marked the entrance to the concrete and plaster complex which featured a ½-acre open-air, landscaped courtyard. The fortress-like design reflected a range of architectural styles including Spanish Colonial Revival, Pueblo Deco, Mediterranean, and Mission Revival.

By the mid-1950s the department had outgrown the facility and the building underwent several modifications to enlarge its capacity, but which also degraded its appearance. In 1998, after years of threats to demolish the building, the San Diego Police Historical Association succeeded in getting the HQ added to the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Resources. The listing made the Old Police Headquarters the twenty-fifth police facility in the US, and only the second in California, to be nationally designated.

In May 2008, Terramar Retail Centers negotiated a 40-year lease with the Port of San Diego to rehabilitate the Old Police Headquarters into a vibrant shopping, dining, and entertainment destination. The project was completed in 2013 and was rechristened The Headquarters.

  • 1889

    San Diego Police Department established under Chief of Police Joseph Coyne

  • 1938

    Charles Quayle, Edward Quayle and Alberto Treganza design the SDPD headquarters

  • 1939

    SDPD moves in. Crime lab established

  • 1945

    SDPD officers get first formal training

  • 1976

    First female sergeant promoted

  • 1987

    Flag lowered at Old Police Headquarters for the last time

  • 1998

    Old Police Headquarters added to the National Register of Historic Places

  • 2013

    The Headquarters Opens


Distinction is Our Opportunity

The Headquarters has a richly authentic sense of place unrivaled in downtown San Diego.

The Architecture

The Headquarters is an unusual mix of five distinct architectural styles reflecting San Diego’s heritage. The dramatic main arch, on Harbor Drive, is built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style and contains the tower where San Diego police officers watched for enemy aircraft during WW II. The intimate Mediterranean arch faces Kettner Boulevard, and the ornate Churrigueresque arch faces Pacific Highway. Each section of The Headquarters can stand on its own architectural and artistic merit, but together these styles form a masterpiece of Southern California architecture.

Inspired by Ancient Greece and Rome, the Classical Revival style is commonly found in government building architecture, especially where law and justice are administered.

Churrigueresque is a style distinguished by expressive detailing over main entrances and recalls twelfth to fifteenth century Moorish buildings in southern Spain. This style became popular again after use in the 1915 Panama-California Exposition celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal.

Spanish Colonial Revival architecture shares many elements with the very closely-related Mission Revival and Pueblo styles of the West and Southwest, and is strongly informed by the same Arts & Crafts Movement. Characterized by a combination of detail from several eras of Spanish and Mexican architecture, the style is marked by stucco wall and chimney finishes, low-pitched clay tile roofs, and terra cotta or cast concrete ornaments.

The Mediterranean Revival style became popular when Maxfield Parrish paintings and movie sets of the 1920’s showed idealized visions of sixteenth century Italian Renaissance palaces. Found predominantly in California and Florida, ornamentation in this style can range from simple to dramatic, and may draw from a number of Mediterranean references.

Pueblo Deco architecture combines the grace of Native American designed pueblos with low, exotic Art Deco lines and is characterized by the use of geometric pattern.

The Urban Gardens

Rows of palms, historic trees, and intimate plantings only begin to describe the extensive palette of vibrant colors and rich texture that embrace The Headquarters’ visitor. Integral to the shopping and dining experience, The Headquarters is home to over an acre of lush urban gardens and landscaped plazas, professionally designed to create a resonating sense of place to linger and enjoy.